October 30-November 5: Bolsheviks marshal forces for the revolution


The Russian writer Maxim Gorky, editor of Novaya Zhizn

With the Military Revolutionary Committee in open defiance of government authority, the loyalties of key sections of workers and soldiers are tested and confirmed. Meanwhile, the forces of the Provisional Government are isolated and undermined. Without firing a shot, the Bolsheviks begin transferring power into their hands, while the government forces feel it slipping away.

Opposing the decision of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party to prepare for an armed uprising, Lev Kamenev resigns from the CC on October 29 (October 16, O.S.). He demands that his objections to Lenin’s resolution be published in the party’s central organ, Rabochii put’ (The Workers’ Path). When the editorial board rejects this demand, Kamenev sends a brief summary of his position to Maxim Gorky’s newspaper Novaya Zhizn’ (The New Life). Gorky’s newspaper promptly publishes Kamenev’s attack on the Bolshevik leadership and reveals the Bolshevik preparations for an uprising, adding a condemnation of the Bolsheviks by Gorky himself. The letter by Kamenev stated:

Not only Comrade [Grigory] Zinoviev and I, but also a number of practical comrades think that to assume the initiative of an armed insurrection at the present moment, with the given correlation of forces, independently of and several days before the Congress of Soviets, is an inadmissible step ruinous to the proletariat and to the revolution. …it is our obligation under the given conditions to speak out against any attempt to take the initiative for an armed uprising, which would be doomed to defeat and would entail the most devastating consequences for the party, for the proletariat, for the fate of the revolution…

Lenin, who learns about the letter from a comrade who dictates it to him over the phone, is furious. Fearing that the publication could explode the plans for a seizure of power, he demands that the Central Committee expel Kamenev and Zinoviev for their violation of party discipline. In a letter to Bolshevik party members, written that same day, he denounces their “strike-breaking act:”

It is perfectly clear from the text of Kamenev’s and Zinoviev’s statement that they have gone against the Central Committee, for otherwise their statement would be meaningless. But they do not say what specific decision of the Central Committee they are disputing. Why? The reason is obvious: because it has not been published by the Central Committee. What does this boil down to? On a burning question of supreme importance, on the eve of the critical day of October 20, two “prominent Bolsheviks” attack an unpublished decision of the Party centre and attack it in the non-Party press and, furthermore, in a paper which on this very question is hand in glove with the bourgeoisie against the workers’ party! This is a thousand times more despicable and a million times more harmful than all the statements Plekhanov, for example, made in the non-Party press in 1906-07, and which the Party so sharply condemned! At that time it was only a question of elections, whereas now it is a question of an insurrection for the conquest of power! On such a question, after a decision has been taken by the centre, to dispute this unpublished decision in front of the Rodziankos and Kerenskys in a non-Party paper—can you imagine an act more treacherous or blacklegging any worse? I should consider it disgraceful on my part if I were to hesitate to condemn these former comrades because of my earlier close relations with them. I declare outright that I no longer consider either of them comrades and that I will fight with all my might, both in the Central Committee and at the Congress, to secure the expulsion of both of them from the Party.

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